Not one day has gone by where I haven't learned something. I've improved a lot, in several different areas, but I have an extremely long, thrilling way to go. One of my most humbling lessons has been that I know nothing: the world is so much bigger and broader than my scope. Here's my very tiny view of the lessons I've learned this year. I'm going to keep these lessons brief.
A few weeks ago, I had an empty day on my calendar. No meetings, no deadlines or plans. It was crazy! I decided to completely nerd out. I was reading research papers and learning about some of the most exciting innovations of 2019.
We've 3D printed hearts, cured HIV using stem cells and built brain-brain interfaces; as I was reading about these breakthroughs, it felt very "cool." It was impressive.
WE HAVE ALMOST CRACKED BRAIN TO BRAIN COMMUNICATION, AND MY REACTION WAS JUST "impressive" AND "cool."
I realized that I've become accustomed to cool scientific/technological breakthroughs happening all. The. Time. Since I'm used to hearing about AI startups disrupting industries and scientists making quantum discoveries, I forget how INSANE these milestones are.
Then, I pretended I was Socrates or Einstein (as one does), and I imagined how they would react to these discoveries. Wow, did that change my view!
Humans are good at getting complacent and used to things. We are living in the most exciting point in history, and we often forget that.
For 99.9999% of humans that have existed, everything that's happening today would seem like magic . Actual wizardry. In the next decade, we'll see self-flying cars, food grown in labs and stem cells curing diseases. Although we hear ML/DL/AI in every other sentence, there is still so much untapped potential. 🤯 We're building quantum computers, MRIs that take pictures of atoms and rockets that will explore the galaxy.
Given the state of scientific/technological advancement, it blows my mind that we still deal with poverty, global warming and medical diagnosis errors.
However, I'm highly optimistic that shortly we'll be able to slap these problems in the face.
Before I close off, I wanted to talk about why I'm passionate and driven to make exciting breakthroughs happen. Hopefully, it'll give you some context into my ambition!
As a teenager who grew up with the internet and social media, I spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. "Fitting in" has always been one of my deepest insecurities, and the emergence of snapchat didn't help. There was always someone prettier than me, richer than me, who had a better X than me. As a young hormonal human, this severely impacted my happiness. I was always looking up to what I could have.
That day on the lake, however, I focused on what I did have: a roof over my head, food to eat, clean water, a safe country to live in and walking abilities. I am: healthy, energetic, literate, english-speaking, supported, mentally well, educated; the list gets unbelievably long. I won the life lottery in every way possible.
If in many other places in the world, by now, I might be married off and having kids. Or, I might not have ever stepped foot in a classroom. Or, I might've died from a preventable infection.
Today, people are dying from preventable diseases, mosquitos and politics. I think you get the point: there's some crazy sh*t happening around the world.
Vinod Khosla (founder of Sun Microsystems) said this quote, "Seven hundred million people have the life that seven billion want." It resonates with me harder than massive sound waves in an open resonance tube. It's not even that I want to bring some 6.3 billion people up to the quality of life that 7B have, I know I need to.
I'm convinced that every single industry has the potential to be transformed. Because of today's access to tools (nanotech, gene-editing, quantum computing, what-have-you), It's almost a no brainer that I work on a big problem that impacts billions. Now it's the question of "which one do I work on?".
In short, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. This gratitude translates to a deep-seated duty to leverage tools (technology) to scale the lives of 700M to everyone else. (Note: there are also so many things within the lives of the 700M that could be improved, ex., diagnosis in healthcare, but advancing tools in the developed world, can also help the developing).
This 'duty' drove me through the tougher times. When I was trying to build genetic algorithms out of a python textbook, I found it extremely difficult. I wanted to give up so many times. But, if I want to solve problems, I need to work hard. I need to get over challenges. Which motivated me to figure it out.
Why do I care about "problems"?
It's not about money; there are way better ways to get that. It's not about fame; I don't care how these issues are solved, as long as they are, I'll do whatever I need to. It's about meaningful work.
I still have a ton of exploring and learning to do. But, as of now, there are three 'areas' in particular that I'm excited about: food, reproductive health and urbanization. It'll be interesting to see how this changes/continues over the years.
I might not know where exactly, I'll be this time next year. I didn't last year. My life is changing faster than I can keep up with, but that's what makes it thrilling. The thing that I know will remain constant is my longstanding desire to slap problems in the face.